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Diners Are Surrounded by History at the Luna Mansion

By Pamela Sosnowski

With its front porch, columns, and 100 year-old cottonwoods on its property, the Luna Mansion looks like it belongs in the antebellum South, or in a period movie. But Los Lunas' most notable piece of architecture is a steakhouse, albeit one listed on the national register of historic places with an interesting past.

Built in 1889, the mansion was a gift from the Santa Fe Railway to the Luna-Otero family in exchange for access to the family's land to construct the railway. The patriarch of the Luna family and the mansion's first owner was Don Solomon Luna, a businessman and sheepherder who was highly involved in local politics.

"The family was quite affluent within New Mexico, involved in politics and local community growth," says the mansion's general manager, Farid Himeur. "As a matter of fact, the state's constitution was conceived at the residence, along with visits from dignitaries from all over the world. Teddy Roosevelt was a good friend of the family!"

Although the Lunas and Oteros hailed from Spain, the house has a distinctly southern style, with columns and a receiving parlor. "They had traveled extensively and loved the Southern style mansions they had seen back east and influenced the choices when the house was designed and built," explains Himeur.

The mansion was constructed with many features that were considered innovative for its time, including walk-in closets, bathrooms, and indoor plumbing. It was also one of the first buildings in New Mexico to house a wine cellar that keeps its inventory at the perfect temperature year-round.

The mansion became a restaurant in the 1970s and since 2009 has been owned by Pete Torres Jr. and his wife, Hortencia. Torres' family has been operating New Mexican restaurants for over 60 years. Although the menu focuses on steak, lamb chops, and pork, Himeur says the menu has expanded to include "pasta, sandwiches, salads, burgers, fish, and a great Sunday morning brunch."

The inside of the mansion is opulent and turn-of-the-century Victorian. "(It) makes our guests feel as if they are dining in more of a museum," says Himeur. "We cater to all types of customers, young or elderly, local or those traveling through. We have something for everyone."

That includes one guest that never leaves. Since the 1970s, the ghost of Don Solomon Luna's wife, Josefita Manderfield Otero, who was affectionately known as Pepe ? has been seen from time to time from mansion employees, rocking in a chair upstairs and dressed in 1920s clothing. Ghost story enthusiasts speculate that she was unhappy about the prospect of her beloved home being renovated and turned into a restaurant, or that she's watching over it.

In addition to the dining area, the Luna Mansion features the Spirit Lounger, where live music plays on Friday evenings. The property can also be rented for special events such as wedding receptions and parties.

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